Roommates, to me, were always just something other people had, like trampolines and appendicitis. Having a college roommate always struck me as a maturity milestone—it was one of those prominent details that embodied the entire college experience. I was the last one in my circle of friends to start college, so I’d ask them, “How’s your roommate? What’s it like living with someone?” I assume they were all brainwashed into saying something pathetically unhelpful, because all I got were variations of the least helpful descriptors in the history of the world: “She’s cool. He’s pretty chill. It’s not bad.” Thanks, guys.
So what’s it really like having a roommate? I’ve had a roommate for a whole month, so you should probably take everything I’m saying and immortalize my words as the speech of the gods. Here’s the low-down on rooming with a stranger:
How’s your roommate? What’s it like living with someone?
My roommate is a social butterfly who jogs in the morning. I’m lazy and I harbor antisocial tendencies. She hates writing and loves math; I love writing and promptly forgot all the algebra I ever learned as soon as I found out I didn’t have any real math requirements. You can actually look at our snack drawers and pinpoint our respective snacks, because hers are all healthy and mine probably cause cancer. Anyway, I say all of this to emphasize my point: living with someone is doable (even if you’re polar opposites) if you’re both willing to be flexible.
Okay, but what’s it REALLY like? What about the nitty-gritty details no one ever acknowledges?
Yeah, those exist. Your roommate might leave shoes all over the place (me) or leave out bananas that attract fruit flies (her). Maybe you’ll come back from taking a shower to find that your roommate’s entire family decided to occupy the room in your absence. (I was all robed and drippy, so I’m glad that image is burned into their minds forever.)
Funny story—my roommate’s ex-boyfriend came for a visit. Bear in mind that we were only a week into this whole sharing-a-room-til-death-do-us-part deal. I decided to give them some privacy in case they needed to work things out. I was halfway to the library when I realized I’d forgotten money for snacks. I texted my friend Tara in the elevator.
ME: With my luck, they’ll totally be having sex when I walk in. Doing the nasty. Knocking boots.
TARA: Please stop.
ME: GETTIN’ BUSY.
TARA: Well… are they broken up?
ME: Yeah. They are decidedly broken up.
(Five minutes later.)
ME: …Oh my God. Never mind.
And it’s not like they were gettin’ busy, but they were definitely headed in that direction. And it was awkward and embarrassing for everyone involved (I think my immediate reaction was to say something like, “I—yeah—sorry—BYE!” and bolt from the room) but we worked it out later.
What do you do at night if you want to go to bed but your roommate doesn’t? Or vice versa? And what if one person gets up early and the other doesn’t? What then, Elodie? WHAT THEN?
Okay, I don’t know if this is something anyone else worried about, but it was just one of those little things I tacked on at the end of my mental list of anxieties and woes before starting college. And my findings? It’s a lot less complicated than I envisioned. At night, I’m usually the first to go to bed, so she uses her lamp or studies elsewhere. In the morning, I’m usually the first one up, and I just try to be quiet. It’s all just golden rule stuff. I know not everyone is blessed with a roommate that understands that, so if your roommate is partying it up while you’re trying to sleep, I’d address the problem sooner rather than later.
Speaking of which… what if your roommate likes to party hard, and you don’t?
College gets a pretty bad rep for that stuff. To an extent, it’s true; there’s a lot of drinking. But not everyone does it, and nobody really cares if you choose not to partake. So, what about me? Am I party serious? Behold the following conversation:
Some guy: Hey, you want a beer?
Me: No thanks. I’ve gotta get back to my dorm. My potion’s been brewing for over an hour, and it’s probably ready by now.
Feel free to draw your own conclusions.
That being said, my roommate likes to dabble in the party scene. But she’s considerate enough to keep it out of the dorm if I’m asleep or studying. The only time it ever (minimally) affected me was when she and a friend stumbled in drunk one night, and the next morning we all woke up to find crackers everywhere with no apparent source. (The real problem was that we were forced to vacuum for the first time. The community vacuum was both baffling and deeply alarming. I'm pretty sure it came to life and tried to kill us.)
What about changing in front of your roommate?
I kind of stood back and let her set the precedent for that one—and I suppose you could say I was a tad shocked when she just about stripped naked right there in the middle of the room. I’m still the person that spastically rips off her pajamas and tries to undergo a miraculous PJs-into-clothes transformation while her roommate’s back is turned.
Should you try to write one of those “roommate contracts”?
Our RA didn’t make us do this, so I don’t know how useful they are. I’m not even sure what they entail. However, I do think it’s definitely a good idea to set some ground rules if you meet each other on Day One and you can just tell your personalities won't mesh well. You're going to be inhabiting the same closet-sized room for the next nine months, and if his/her lifestyle is encroaching on yours, speak up (preferably before you reach the smothering-them-in-their-sleep phase).
Any other advice?
It’s okay if you’re not best friends with your roommate. My friends Holly, Liam, and Claire found a long-lost twin in each of their roommates, which happens; you can get a new BFF out of the deal, or a worst enemy. But I’ve found that most people fall somewhere in the middle, in an area of general coexistence.
Basically, don’t sweat it. (And whatever you do, DON’T watch that movie The Roommate unless you want to spend the rest of the school year glaring at each other suspiciously from opposite ends of the room.)
P.S. This has nothing to do with roommates, but guess who has a Maybe Date tomorrow with Calvin! That's right, this girl! I know I said I didn't like him, but I figure a) it's just a movie, and it might be a just-as-friends deal so let's not jump to conclusions, and b) if there are undertones of romance at play here, any guy who can endure my hindering social awkwardness and still say, "Now there's a girl I can see myself dating," well, he totally deserves a shot. Wish me luck!
MAYBEEEE DATE! Elodie should patent that term and charge us 8 bucks every time we use it, which is every Friday. How do you feel about your roomie? Love 'em? Hate 'em? "Meh" about the whole thing?
Related post: Seven Crazy Roommates